A small independent film production company based in Honor Oak, South London, has become the only British nominee for the 2015 Best Documentary Oscar and is set to release a second feature that one of Britain’s leading comedians has described as “wonderful”.
And yet you’ve probably never heard of them.
Grain Media was established in 2006 by two South Londoners – Jon Drever and Orlando von Einsiedel. The pair are not typical of established film producers; Jon used to make skateboard films and Orlando was a pro-snowboarder. They now find themselves nominated for an Academy Award for their critically acclaimed film, Virunga, and are about to release Britain’s first superhero rom-com, SuperBob.
“We’re completely self taught,” says Jon. “We never went to film school, or worked our way up the industry ladder in a traditional way, we just went out and started making films”.
“It’s our stubbornness that’s got us to where we are,” says Orlando, a rising star in the documentary world. “We always wanted to make movies, and after a lot of hard work laying the foundations, we’ve made three feature films in the last two years”.
Part investigative journalism, part nature documentary and part war movie, Virunga, directed by Orlando, follows a team of brave park rangers in Africa’s oldest national park, caught in the crossfire between poachers, militias and corporate greed.
Since the film was finished in 2014, Virunga has completed a UK and US theatrical release, launched globally on Netflix, won 27 international awards, and been nominated for a BAFTA.
Leonardo DiCaprio has come on board as executive producer and to cap off an incredible year, the film has now been nominated for an Academy Award.
“We’re honoured and humbled to be recognised amongst so many fantastic films,” says Orlando. “A lot of people risked their lives to make Virunga. The attention being Oscar nominated has brought the issues at the centre of the film is huge. It’s been very heartening to see the world get behind protecting Congo’s incredible Virunga National Park.”
But Grain Media does not only make hard-hitting docs.
SuperBob is a unique British film and possibly Britain’s first superhero rom-com. Directed by Jon and set in his native Peckham, the film has a cast featuring some of Britain’s brightest comedy stars.
These include Brett Goldstein (Derek), Catherine Tate (Doctor Who), Natalia Tena (Game of Thrones), Laura Haddock (The Inbetweeners Movie), Ruth Sheen (Run Fat Boy Run) and Ricky Grover (Getting On).
In January 2015 SuperBob premiered at The LOCO London Comedy Film Festival, winning its prestigious Discovery Award. Ricky Gervais called the film ‘wonderful’.
“Orlando and I have taken Grain to places we are interested in,” says Jon. “Orlando always wanted to make docs and I was more interested in scripted work, so the company makes both. We just like making all sorts of films and we have a really talented bunch of people working with us at Grain”.
Jon and Orlando have created a unique production company in South London that is making waves in the film world. They are unorthodox, self-taught and very much not a part of the mainstream TV and film industry.
“We don’t think any of the big broadcasters know who we are,” says Jon. “But so far we’ve coped without them”.